A new report examines Shakespeare’s role as an asset for the UK around the world, and the part his work can play to help support the country’s interests and soft power.
Shakespeare is widely known, liked, understood, and is viewed as relevant today
2016 marks the 400th year since the world’s most famous playwright died. The cultural sector is marking the event with major programmes of activities. As part of these anniversary events, the British Council commissioned new research into Shakespeare’s global influence and its value for the country of his birth. The global survey that it undertook shows that Shakespeare’s popularity is very high with people round the world. Among the 15 countries it surveyed, Shakespeare is widely known, liked, understood, and is viewed as relevant today. 78% of those surveyed had some experience of his work, of whom 76% said that they liked it and 69% said they understood and thought it was still relevant today.
37% of those surveyed said Shakespeare made them feel more positive about the country where he wrote his plays
Shakespeare has been the fundamental heart of British theatre since his plays were written. 34 million people, it is thought, visit the UK theatre every year - more than English and Scottish Football League and Premiership matches put together; and it is believed the West End on its own makes £630 million a year, which makes it the biggest theatre hub on Earth. Yet the research hints his impact goes beyond education and beyond the stage. 37% of those surveyed said Shakespeare made them feel more positive about the country where he wrote his plays, this rose to 42% for those aged 18 to 24 years of age, and to 62% for Indians. Furthermore they said they were more likely to visit the UK on holiday or study and consume the country’s culture. Seven in ten of those who said their views of the UK were, in a positive way, influenced by Shakespeare, claimed they wished to visit the UK on holiday. This all implies he is a vital asset for the UK’s cultural appeal overseas.
‘His tongue our trumpet’
Culture plays a fundamental role in a country’s prosperity and soft power. Previous research by IpsosMori, commissioned by the British Council, showed that, when young people overseas were asked what was the biggest factor in their view that helped attract them most to the UK, 35% of them chose culture. And when they were asked to name one person who they associated with contemporary UK arts and culture who they found of particular interest to them, by far the largest number answered ‘Shakespeare’.
The data also showed that Shakespeare is more popular in many other nations, including fast-growth economies and influential powers like India, than he is even here in the UK
The data also showed that Shakespeare is more popular in many other nations, including fast-growth economies and influential powers like India, than he is even here in the UK. 88% of Mexicans said that they liked Shakespeare and his work, compared to only 59% of British people asked in the survey; of Brazilians, 84% said they found him relevant today, compared to only 57% of those answering the same question here at home; and 83% of Indians asked said that they understood Shakespeare’s work, compared to only 58% of those surveyed from the UK itself.